Live Review: Lupe Fiasco – Club Nokia, Los Angeles
Thu, 13 Nov 2008 18:50:58
According to Lupe Fiasco, hip hop saves lives. During his sold out show at downtown L.A.'s newly opened Club Nokia, it was hard to refute that claim. The venue was packed to the brim with fans of all ages, and everyone was clamoring to see the "Superstar" do what he does best. Among the gaggle of intelligent, forward-thinking MC's on the scene today, Lupe shines. He's got swagger a la Kanye West, but while Kanye's been swept up by the vocoder, Lupe's content to follow his first love—rap. Over the course of his hour set, he proved that he could spit rhymes with the best of them, and he may be one of the few that mainstream hip hop has left.
Though Lupe is unequivocally a rapper, he looked like a rock star on stage. Clad in black jeans, a shiny black shirt and black leather Chuck Taylors, he hit the stage playing air guitar to his band's intro. He sauntered up to the mic and leaned over the monitors more like Deftones' Chino Moreno than Nas. He kicked off the set with Food & Liquor's "Kick, Push," and immediately the crowd exploded into a calculated bounce. Lupe's energy was magnetic. He danced through the spotlight, kinetically kicking up his leg. He's by far one of the most energetic rappers out there. He practically headbanged the song into oblivion, speaking to skate nation like a new prophet.
Before the next song, he exclaimed, "We love this thing called hip hop. We do this thing called hip hop. Do you want to know why?" He answered his rhetorical question with "Hip Hop Saved My Life." The chorus resounded through the venue, and Lupe injected a tangible passion into each and every verse. He dedicated "I Gotcha" to the ladies, and he blazed through the song like a prizefighter knocking out each and every line.
Lupe's the very first artist to sell out Club Nokia, and even though the club had a distinct, blue-lit futuristic style, Lupe brought an old school vibe. Fresh off a summer run with Kanye, Rihanna and N.E.R.D., Lupe has refined his live show into a fresh and fun concert experience. One set highlight, "Go Go Gadget Flow," segued from a robotic opening into Lupe firing off the verse with speed and precision. His cadence steamrolled the crowd and wowed even the backpackers in the audience. Like a conductor, he fired off his fingers at the crowd, urging them to chime in. Lupe's a born showmen, that's for sure, but he's also a hell of an MC. His delivery was fast and impenetrable during cuts from The Cool.
Lupe's live band breathed new life into the songs. Keyboard and guitar solos opened up the sound, making the tracks much more organic. The horns in the background also gave everything a jazzy feel. "Hi Definition" flowed smoothly, and sparked the most grinding 'n' grooving in the crowd. Meanwhile on "Paris, Tokyo," Lupe snapped his finger and rhymed over a jazz-infused breakdown.
Before "Superstar," Lupe made a poignant remark. "Tonight is not a concert," he proclaimed. "Tonight is not a show. Tonight is me giving the love back that you gave to me. So when I say this, I mean it: I love you." The crowd's singing was deafening on the mega-hit, and it's clear that love was reciprocal. So, can hip hop save lives? The answer doesn't matter because one thing's for sure: Lupe can.